Compliance rate increases

Only one store fails alcohol check during recent evaluation

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— Of the 13 local restaurants, bars and liquor stores that were tested Friday night during a routine compliance check, only one failed.

That kind of success rate is what Steamboat Springs police Capt. Joel Rae said he is looking for every time.

"We were absolutely pleased. Considering that fact, that we had nine of 11 businesses fail in September, and six of 16 fail in December, this is clear indication that our liquor license holders are taking these checks seriously," he said Saturday.

Fiesta Jalisco is the only store that failed the compliance check.

Both Kum & Go locations, West End Liquor, Arctic Liquors, Steamboat Discount Liquors, Central Park Liquors, Mount Werner Sinclair station, Mazzola's, Cugino's, Tequila's, Panda Express and L'Apogee/Harwigs all passed the compliance check by asking the police department's underage buyers for identification Friday night.

Police officers were hoping to visit 20 establishments but were only able to check 13, Rae said. The remaining seven businesses that were not checked Friday will be checked during the next 30 days, he said.

Rae said the bartender at Fiesta Jalisco allegedly served two beers to a 16-year-old boy and a 19-year-old man after the men sat at the bar.

The bartender was cited for two counts of providing alcohol to a minor the same he night he sold the undercover buyers the alcohol.

Rae said the restaurant's liquor license holder was not cited after the failure because the Steamboat Springs City Council, which acts as the city's liquor license authority, will handle the business's punishment.

Last fall, the council passed an ordinance allowing it to evaluate restaurant owners or liquor-license holders instead of having the owner go through the judicial system.

Each of the six businesses that failed the December compliance check had their licenses suspended for a period of days.

Rae said he did not know how the council would handle the Fiesta Jalisco violation because the restaurant technically served two minors.

"In my opinion, it should be treated as two cases because it was two separate violations," he said.

Fiesta Jalisco's failure was its first because the police department had never visited the restaurant, which made checking the restaurant a priority, Rae said.

"Our goal is to check all the package stores, hotels, restaurants and bars we haven't checked or haven't checked recently. We have found that kids are drinking at parties where they purchase alcohol at a package store. They're not buying alcohol on-premise," he said. "We're looking at it equitably and fairly."

During the checks Friday, two underage teams were sent to the establishments. One team included the 16-year-old boy and the 19-year-old man, and the other group included an 18-year-old woman.

The businesses that passed the compliance check were immediately contacted by a police officer, given a letter explaining what had happened Friday night and thanking the business for checking IDs.

Rae said he thought both the clerks and the underage participants benefited from going through the checks and passing.

"The clerks were all ecstatic they passed," he said. "I think it's good for our kids to have walked back into the store and have the officer introduce them and feel good about what they were doing for the community."

Rae said he is optimistic that the community is responding responsibly and checking IDs.

"I honestly feel like things are getting better. These businesses are taking new measures to improve their policies," he said. "We're still shooting for 100 percent compliance. We'll keep doing them periodically."

--To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234

or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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